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IBM Has Breakthrough That Boosts Chip Speed

International Business Machines Corp said on Friday it made a breakthrough in semiconductor technology that can boost chip speeds by as much as 35 percent, while also reducing power requirements.

Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, the world’s largest computer maker, said it has perfected a way to alter silicon, the basic material used to build microchips, so that it can be stretched, speeding the flow of electrons through the transistors on the chip.

The new technology takes advantage of the natural tendency for atoms inside compounds to align with one another. When silicon is deposited on top of a substrate with atoms spaced farther apart, the atoms in silicon stretch to line up with the atoms beneath, stretching — or “straining” — the silicon.

In the strained silicon, IBM said, electrons experience less resistance and flow up to 70 percent faster, which can lead to chips that are up to 35 percent faster — without having to shrink the size of transistors.

IBM will present details of its strained silicon breakthroughs in two technical papers being presented at the Symposium on VLSI Technology in Kyoto, Japan on June 13, 2001.

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